The chances of surviving cancer are increasing every year, even for the worst kinds, according to new figures from the Belgian Cancer Registry (in English).
The registry looked at the latest available figures, and compiled a list of the chances of surviving for three years after diagnoses for a wide variety of different types of cancer.
Taking all types together, the chance of surviving three years had gone up in 2019 to 71% for a cancer diagnosed in 2016. For a 2013 diagnosis the survival rate was 69%, while for a diagnosis in 2004 the chances were only 67%.
Even the types of cancer with the highest mortality rates are seeing the chances of survival improve. Lung cancer claims the most lives of all types, but even there, the three-year survival rate is 29%, up from 19% in 2004 and 24% in 2013.
The latest figure for lung cancer is “not a high number, but in the improvement in survival chances, the biggest increase was seen in lung cancer,” Nancy Van Damme of the Cancer Registry told the VRT.
“And we are seeing better survival figures for more advanced cases of cancer,” she said. “That has everything to do with new and more targetted treatments, such as for example immunotherapy.”
Immunotherapy employs the body’s natural defence mechanisms to attack cancers, kill them off and prevent any recurrence.
Digging down into the figures, it appears that women are indeed the proverbial stronger sex. Survival for all cancers is at 75% for women, and 67% for men. For lung cancer in particular, the figures are 36% for women and 26% for men.
“Women suffer to some extent from different types of cancer,” Van Damme said. While men can suffer from breast cancer, the numbers are weighted by far towards women, and that sort of cancer has spectacularly high survival figures, at 91% after three years.
For one thing, women tend to present when their cancer is at an earlier stage, thanks to the fact that women in general are more likely to go to the doctor than are men. In addition, women appear to be more responsive to some kinds of treatment than men, for reasons that are still to be explained.